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Donald Campbell

Donald Campbell – the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell who broke the world land speed record nine times between 1924 and 1935 in a succession of cars named Bluebird – continued the family’s record-breaking tradition after his father’s 1949 death after a long illness.

Donald, born on 23 March 1921, initially concentrated on the water speed record, but he struggled with the K4 boat his father used and suffered a 170mph crash in 1951.

The development of a new K7 boat saw him set seven world water speed records between 1955 and 1964, the first at Ullswater where he hit 202mph culminating in a speed of 276.33mph at Lake Dumbleyung in Australia.

bluebirdDonald then began to attack the land speed record and succeeded in setting a new world record when he drove Bluebird at 403.1mph at Australia’s Lake Eye so becoming the first person to simultaneously hold the world record on both land and water.

Then on 4 January 1967 on Coniston Water, he crashed and died while attempting to become the first person to go over 300mph on water.

Achieving a remarkable 297mph in the jet-powered Bluebird on the first run, he turned around without refuelling but – more crucially – he did not wait for his wake to settle before setting off on the return.

At a speed of more than 300mph, Bluebird’s nose lifted out of the water and the boat somersaulted and disintegrated on landing on the surface. He was heard to say on the radio “She’s going . . . she’s going. I’m almost on my back.”

His helmet, shoes, oxygen mask and mascot were recovered but there was no trace of his body.

On 8 March 2001, against the wishes of most locals, Bluebird was recovered from Coniston Water where she had lain for more than 30 years and nearly three months later it was announced that human remains had been recovered.

One of England’s most respected record-breakers was finally laid to rest in Coniston on 12 September 2001.